Title: Bobbie Dazzler
Author: Margaret Wild
Illustrator: Janine Dawson
Author: Margaret Wild was born in South Africa and came to live in Australia in 1972. She worked as a journalist, and then for 16 years as a children’s book editor, writing only in small snatches, or at night when she had the energy. She now writes fulltime. Margaret is the author of many popular children’s books, including, Fox (illustrated by Ron Brooks), The Pocket Dogs (illustrated by Stephen Michael King), Babs The Baby And Fog The Dog (illustrated by Donna Rawlins), and many others. Margaret’s books have received many awards over the years. Fox won the Picture Book of the Year in 2001. Seven More Sleeps (illustrated by Donna Rawlins) was a CBCA 2005 Honour Book. Margaret’s young granddaughter inspired her to write Bobbie Dazzler. She says,
“It’s been many years since I’ve hopped, jumped and skipped – but through my small granddaughter, Olivia, I’m rediscovering these joys. I draw the line, though, at standing on my head. So the idea for Bobbie Dazzler came from me observing Olivia’s pleasure as she mastered balancing, doing somersaults and attempting cartwheels. The splits defeated her, however, so I wrote a story for her instead.”
Illustrator: Janine Dawson was born and grew up in Manly, Sydney. Janine says she was always a drawer, but never took it seriously. However, after an initial career in theatre she switched to animation after hearing a talk about it at the Sydney College of the Arts. So began a love affair that has lasted more than 20 years. In 1991, Dawson began illustrating children’s books. Among the many books she has illustrated are the highly successful Lily Quench series by Natalie Jane Prior, Carol Ann Martin’s Dulcie & Dud stories, Junkyard Dogs by Margaret Balderson and Pudding & Chips by Penny Matthews. Janine still lives in Manly with her daughter, Rosie, her cats and some very nervous fish!
Bobbie, the wallaby, dazzles her friends, Koala, Wombat and Possum with her extraordinary whirls, twirls, jumps and somersaults. But she can’t do the splits. Koala, Wombat and Possum try to console her. They say, “Never mind,” But Bobbie does mind – a lot. But she won’t give up, and keeps on practising. Until, one day, much to her delight, she succeeds. Koala, Wombat and Possum are inspired by Bobbie’s determination. And after lots of practice, they all learn to do the splits, too. A warm, simple story about perseverance and friendship.
Bobbie Dazzler has a sequential, rhythmic, cumulative plot. In each of three sequences five of Bobbie’s accomplishments are detailed – ‘Bobbie could jump. And bounce. And skip. She could hop on her left leg. And on her right leg.’ Followed by a problem – ‘But she could not do the splits.’- a comforting word from one of her friends. ‘“Never mind,” said Koala’ And finally,Bobbie’s response – But Bobbie minded. A lot. Then, the pattern and pace of the story changes. Bobbie makes a decision, prepares herself, and achieves her goal: “Look!” she said. “I’ve done the splits!” There is an anti-climax when Bobbie gets stuck, and a warm and satisfying conclusion with all of the friends learning to do the splits. The text includes a wonderful assortment of ‘movement’ words: hop, jump, balance, whirl, twirl, somersaults, and handsprings
The wonderful illustrations complement and extend the meaning and mood of the text. Janine Dawson used pen and ink and watercolour in this book. She has created four delightful native animal characters. She says,
“When I was doing Bobbie I trotted off a few times to Taronga Zoo here in Sydney and sat down with my sketch book in the native animals enclosure. There were a few magnificent big red Kangaroos, but the ones I was really taken with were the little red-necked wallabies, so that's who Bobbie ended up being.
The lavish use of white space on each page focuses attention on what the characters are doing, and how they are feeling. Compare pictures of Bobbie’s exuberance and her disappointment. Look at the picture of all of the animals looking out at the sunset – the simple image of Koala’s hand gently resting on Bobbie’s back – caring, warm, no need for words. While the illustrations don’t include detailed backgrounds they do show a range of native plants from the bush in the headland in Sydney where Janine used to play when she was little, and where she still goes a lot for bushwalks.
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